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New York Gov. Hochul announces "parameters of conceptual" budget deal, two weeks after deadline

Central Vermont lawmakers introduce flood recovery omnibus bill

 Screengrab from Vermont Agency of Agriculture video of Montpelier flooding July 2023
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
/
Vermont Governor's office
Screengrab from Vermont Agency of Agriculture video of Montpelier flooding July 2023

As Vermont legislators return to Montpelier today, flood recovery is among the top priorities. Four central Vermont House members are introducing an extensive flood recovery bill and rallied at the Statehouse Wednesday to promote the proposal.

The Flood Recovery Omnibus Bill is being introduced by four state representatives from the Barre and Montpelier areas, which experienced catastrophic flooding in July and more flooding in December.

The bill includes provisions for municipal aid, business grants, assistance for those who lost housing due to flooding, creation of flood mitigation plans and enhanced emergency management.

Montpelier Democrat Conor Casey says it’s a comprehensive bill that looks to address numerous issues.

“One being the direct impact to individuals who may have fallen through the cracks from FEMA funding," Casey explained. "Also making municipalities whole. A lot of our local budgets are in a state of disrepair following the flood from the lost revenue. Of course, flood mitigation. We want to be able to send a clear message that the state is doing everything it possibly can to make sure this never happens again on this level, which dovetails into the emergency preparedness piece. Making sure the state has more of a presence on the ground than it did this past July.”

Casey says Vermont government needs to take a bigger role following such a disaster and the bill creates a framework for flood recovery.

“I can say as somebody whose neighborhood was in disrepair, someone who volunteered, that I felt a lack of state presence," recalled Casey. "And really we needed to be able to bring services to people rather than let them come to state services. And that didn’t always happen. It felt very much like it was a volunteer and municipal driven effort. I don’t want to cast blame and we’re really eager to work with the administration to see how we can improve the responses.”

Democrat Jonathan Williams noted that Barre was among the epicenters of severe flooding and the only community in the state that experienced loss of life. The Barre City representative notes that a critical part of the bill includes appropriations to local municipalities to aid recovery.

“Barre City is facing a $1.45 million deficit for its municipal budget because so many homes were impacted or destroyed from the flooding and associated landslides," noted Williams. "And as such the state must do something to make municipalities whole in the coming year. If we don’t, in my opinion, we’re going to face a very significant property tax increases without state assistance. So I strongly believe the state should make appropriations to that effect.”

The bill allocates about $87 million for flood mitigation efforts. Casey admits it’s not an inexpensive bill.

“The cost of inaction will result in much more being spent over the years if we don’t address this now," asserted Casey. "And honestly we can’t afford not to do some of these things. Our entire central Vermont economy came to a standstill for months and if we look at the total damage it’s about $300 million of economic injury to businesses alone. We need to get them back on their feet so they’re an economic driver as well.”

Williams is confident that the legislature can pass the provisions whether it is one omnibus or broken into smaller bills.

“There’s a lot in there that I think will stand out as being essential to prepare for these kinds of disasters," said Williams. "As was already demonstrated in the flooding a few weeks ago these kinds of events are not going away. If anything, due to climate change, they’re going to become more frequent. So I think we have to be prepared.”

Republican Governor Phil Scott on Wednesday announced a joint effort with state Treasurer Mike Pieciak to develop a comprehensive Resilience Implementation Strategy by July 1, 2025.

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